“Kirsten is an amazing artist. Obviously she is a gifted soprano with a powerful and beautiful voice. But she is also an amazing performer. She knows how to use her whole body to tell a story, not just her voice. I personally find her to be hypnotizing on stage and she is really willing to make bold choices. I always look for excuses to have her on the team.”
- Interview of director Brenna Geffers by Henrik Eger, DC Metro Arts for “Machinal”
The Leading Native American Soprano
Lauded as the leading Native American soprano in today’s classical music world, Dr. Kirsten C. Kunkle is a voting citizen of the Mvskoke Nation. She has been hailed as an outstanding singing actress with a voice that has been described as beautiful, ethereal, powerful, fiery, and bewitching. Kirsten commissioned and premiered sixteen original compositions, including one of her own, based upon the poetry of her ancestor and highly-acclaimed poet of the Native American Muscogee Nation, Alex Posey. Her recordings are collected at the Library of Congress, the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution (NMAI), and the Merkel Area Museum in Merkel, Texas. Kirsten is included on the list of Classical Native American Artists and Musicians at the Smithsonian Institution’s NMAI and on the Molto Native Music list of performers. She was featured as a composer and soloist for the Circle of Resilience concert, with Intermountain Opera Bozeman in May, 2021.
A Champion of New and Unrecorded Music
Kirsten works frequently in the realm of new music or previously unrecorded music. With the Philadelphia Opera Collective, she created leading roles in numerous world premieres, including Edith Standen in Shadow House, Annie Jump Cannon in Jump the Moon, Edgar Allan Poe/The Poet in Opera Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe, and Dr. Frankenstein in By You That Made Me, Frankenstein. She also created the role of Space Mad Woman in Toowhopera by Sorrell Hayes. She has recorded extensively through the Comic Opera Guild, specializing in the works of Victor Herbert. Most recently, Kirsten recorded the leading role of Catherine Sloper for the world premiere of the new opera Washington Square, available exclusively on Apple Podcasts. She made her solo European debut with the Sofia Philharmonic in the role of Arabella in Johann Strauss II’s Blindekuh. She is also a NAXOS recording artist for the world premiere recording of Blindekuh, which was released in March 2020 to extraordinary reviews.
A Brilliant Actor in Musical Theatre and Straight Plays
No stranger to the theatre, Kirsten starred as the Maestra Impresaria and Zitkála-Šá for the staged reading of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza with The Pleiades Project in New York City in 2021. She made her professional straight play debut in Machinal with EgoPo Classic Theater and her professional musical theatre debut as Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with the Scranton Shakespeare Festival, both in 2016. Having grown up in musical theatre, favorite roles have included Margaret White in Carrie, Marian Paroo in The Music Man, Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Lady Thiang in The King and I, Fiona in Brigadoon, and the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
A Successful Singer of Traditional Operatic Repertoire
Among her favorite roles in the standard operatic repertoire are Agathe in Der Freischütz, the title role in Suor Angelica, Magda and the Foreign Woman in The Consul, Mimì in La bohème, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro, Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, Iolanta and Brigitta in Iolanta, Zemfira in Aleko, Lisa in Pique Dame, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Laetitia in The Old Maid and the Thief, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, and Dido in Dido and Aeneas. She has an Honorable Mention for The American Prize in Voice – Professional Art Song and Oratorio Division (Women), as well as being a two-time semi-finalist for The American Prize in Opera (Women). She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014, and in the same year she was the Pennsylvania District National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Award winner. Kirsten won second place in the Roschel Vocal Competition in 2015.
An Academic and Scholar
Kirsten attended Bowling Green State University and the University of Salzburg for her undergraduate studies, majoring in voice performance with minors in Italian and German. Her masters and doctoral degrees are in voice performance from the University of Michigan. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals and is a successful voice educator. Having previously taught on the faculties of Lincoln University, Shorter College, Youngstown State University, Wright State University, and Terra Community College, Kirsten currently maintains a private vocal studio.
An Artistic Director, Librettist, and Mother
Kirsten is the proud Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Wilmington Concert Opera, a grassroots women and minority led opera company in Wilmington, Delaware. Kirsten has spent the majority of her time during the pandemic recording new works, promoting the arts through Wilmington Concert Opera, writing opera libretti, and raising her young daughter. Upcoming events focus on feminist and Native American based projects, as well as continuing to bring opera to everyone through her work as an artistic director.